Choosing a Reiki course can be a little like choosing a wine: if you have no experience it can be hard to tell one from the other.
As far as Reiki goes, there are three main reasons why courses fail:
1. A Lack of system and structure
2. A teacher with little practical experience
3. A lack of post-course follow-up
A Lack of System and Structure
It might come as a surprise to many, but the system of Reiki most people learns today is far removed from the original system created by the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui.
I discuss in detail how Reiki has changed over the years elsewhere; so in this section of my article I'd simply like to focus on the most concerning development: the lack of system and structure that has arisen in most courses taught today. Because this, in essence, is the major point of contrast between what we might call 'Western Reiki' (what almost all courses nowadays teach) and the more traditional Japanese variation.
Naturally, the Western style of Reiki still works well; but there is nevertheless a logical historical reason for its current lack of system and structure, a reason that dates back to the kind of person the original Reiki teachers were.
This perhaps shouldn't have been a problem given that Mrs Takata (the founding teacher of Western Reiki) made all of her Master Level students vow to maintain and teach the Reiki system and structure exactly as she taught it; but it only ever takes one and, as soon as one of her teachers deviated from what she was taught, others quickly followed.
And, since many of the Mrs Takata's Master Level teachers had previously travelled to places like India where they learned a rich assorted of wonderful healing techniques, it came naturally for them to add these techniques to what they taught.
After all, if they were great techniques that truly worked, how could they hurt?
The problem is that over time the coherency of the original system got lost.
Reiki had become a collection of great techniques that no longer fit together, that no longer built on each other systematically to achieve a precise outcome.
As a result, the system of Reiki lost a lot of its original force.
Fortunately, in the mid 1990s, Japanese Reiki re-emerged to both the Western and Japanese public after many decades of secrecy.
As a result, we learned that while a good part of the original system had been preserved in Western Reiki, there were also serious differences between it and the traditional form which, true to Japanese custom, had been passed down from teacher to student without change.
The Reiki Teacher
Unfortunately, Reiki isn't like most of the martial arts that have some sort of 'dan' system.
In Reiki there are only three traditional levels, the highest one being that of a Reiki Master.
What this means is that officially there is no simple way to differentiate between the level of skill and expertise of Reiki Masters.
And yet, the differences are enormous, so potential students need to consider their prospective teacher carefully.
After all, there is a big difference between a Reiki teacher who works with Reiki full-time and a Reiki teacher who specializes in massage but does a little bit of Reiki on the side.
There is a big difference between a Reiki teacher who has taught hundreds of students in all levels and one who has only taught a few.
There is a big difference between a Reiki teacher who works on his or her craft daily, who has done extensive research and studied with influential Masters, and those who seldom reflect on Reiki and only use it sporadically on themselves.
There is also a big difference between Reiki Masters who have been working with meditation and Reiki for years and those who have only just begun.
This, of course, is not to say that anyone without a great deal of experience can't be a good teacher (they can!), it is simply saying that the odds are against it.
Again, since it is a relatively easy thing to become a Reiki Master - as opposed to a master of most other disciplines - it pays to select your teacher carefully.
The number one reason why most 'learning' courses fail is because there is not enough - or no! - follow-up.
If you've been to a personal growth seminar you know the drill: you attend it, get lots of useful information, intend to apply it all and then, somehow, find that the busyness of everyday life sucks you in and before you know it the weekend simply becomes a fond memory - one of theoretical rather than practical value.
The difficulty is that we are all creatures of habit, and habits - of any variety - tend to be sticky.
Once we get caught up in them it is hard break free.
It's almost like the gravitational pull of a planet: the larger it is (or in our case, the longer we have been stuck in a habit), the harder it is to pull away from it.
To be successful, we generally need to replace the old habit with a new one and this takes time.
Not surprisingly, if there is structured post-course guidance for what we are learning, this will make it easier for us to form a new habit and, as a result, journey deeply into the material we have just learned.
This will then move our knowledge from a theoretical to a practical plane, making it possible for us to experience true growth and change.
The necessity of post-course structure in Reiki became clear to me early on when I observed that many students who learned Reiki didn't go on to use it in the long-term.
Initially, this was even a problem in my own courses because I, like all of my teachers, didn't have any concrete post-course material for students to use.
Once I started to introduce this material, however, the percentage of students enrolling in level 2 and 3 not only increased; the percentage of students who kept working with Reiki well beyond my course also rose sharply.
Some examples of post-course material I have introduced are:
- A 21-day e-course that helps students consolidate and extend what they learned in the course.
- A video and articles web portal with additional information to help students overcome common practice-related issues while continuing to enhance their healing ability.
- Monthly Reiki practice nights where students can come together, ask questions and learn additional techniques not covered in my courses.
- Regular Reiki newsletters with articles on developing one's Reiki practice.
- The opportunity for students to phone and write in with any questions they have regarding Reiki.
All of this post-course support makes it easy for students to go deeply into their new Reiki skills and, as a result, make them an important part of their daily life.
Choosing a Reiki course is a lot more complex than simply finding the best price. Reiki teachers and the support they offer varies enormously, so it pays to do some research before enrolling in a course.
Reiki has the potential to become one of the greatest blessings in your life. You want to make sure you get off on the right footing.